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Dog Kidney Failure: When To Euthanize Safely

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Watching our furry companions age and take on sudden changes to their mental and physical health can be a challenge to us.

I myself have experienced a beloved family dog deal with severe health isssues, and know that it takes a heavy toll on the heart.

However, when it comes to dog kidney failure, when to euthanize safely is something that you must decide.

That said, there are many treatments and therapies that owners can use to keep their pets comfortable until it is time to humanely euthanize them.

What Do Your Dog’s Kidneys Do?

The kidneys have several functions but are responsible for removing waste from the bloodstream, conserving water, and regulating the efficiency of necessary minerals.

Waste Removal

Kidneys use their filtration system to distinguish between what needs to remain in the body and what doesn’t.

Metabolic waste is leftover substances that the kidneys are responsible for removing and usually aren’t harmful.

Still, some toxins need to be expelled, and the kidneys do a perfect job.

Water Conservation

The kidneys play a vital role in balancing hydration with water removal.

A hydrated dog will have pale urine and may frequently urinate as the kidneys expel the access water in the body.

A dehydrated dog with concentrated and darker urine since the kidneys will be working harder to conserve water while removing metabolic waste and toxins within the body.

Urine Production

As mentioned, urine is produced by the kidneys to extract waste and toxins from the body.

The color of urine varies depending on the hydration of your dog.

Darker urine will reflect dehydration as the body attempts to conserve water, while lighter urine has excess water removed from the body.

Blood Mineral Regulations

Electrolytes regulated by the kidneys assist in muscle and nerve function and maintain acid-base and normal fluid levels.

Sodium and potassium are two of the various compounds that the kidney is in charge of regulating and help make up the needed electrolytes in your pet’s body.

What Is Kidney Disease in Dogs?

Kidney disease, by definition, is the inability of the kidney to properly and efficiently filter the blood of various waste products.

As a result, some dogs may urinate more frequently with kidney disease, but the wastes are not effectively removed from the rest of the body.

Why Does It Happen?

There is an assortment of reasons that your dog could develop kidney disease, some causing it later in life, while other triggers can happen as soon as birth.


Chronic kidney issues usually arise due to age.

Kidney tissues can deteriorate with age causing early signs of urinary issues that may eventually develop into kidney failure.

Birth Defects

Kidneys that do not develop properly at birth can cause early issues.

Renal Dysplasia is a type of disorder in which the kidney is abnormally formed.

This can be seen in symptoms such as a puppy with increased thirst and urination.

Bacterial Infections

Infections that traverse from the bladder to the kidneys can cause lasting damage to the organs.

Several different types of bacteria can contribute to early kidney disease, so be sure to take a trip to the vet if symptoms of bladder infections arise.


Kidney poisoning, called Toxicosis, can arise from your dog consuming poisons such as chocolate, antifreeze, raisins, or anti-inflammatories.

Do Dogs Suffer When They Have Kidney Failure?

When kidneys reach an advanced stage of disease and enter kidney failure, the symptoms for your dog will worsen and cause them great discomfort.

Symptoms include seizures, lethargy, weight loss, and vomiting.

Is There a Treatment for Kidney Disease in Dogs?

Treatments vary depending on the severity of the kidney disease.

Fluids, antibiotics, diet changes, and other treatments are used to assist a dog with their kidney issues and can be used long-term.

How Long Can a Dog Live With Kidney Disease?

The length a dog can live after a diagnosis of kidney disease varies on how much it has progressed.

Early stages of kidney disease can be treated and offer a lengthier quality of life before they progress to a later stage or enter kidney failure.

What Is the Survival Rate for Dogs With Kidney Disease?

Since kidney disease is progressive, a dog’s life is determined by its severity.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for kidney disease, but treatments can be used to relieve symptoms and offer a better quality of life.

How Long Can a Dog Live With Kidney Failure?

Dogs with acute kidney failure usually will not live longer than several days, even with hospitalization.

However, chronic kidney failure could take months or even years before the dog passes away.

What Is the Process for a Dog Dying of Kidney Disease?

When a dog reaches the end stages of kidney failure due to kidney disease, they usually lack an appetite and become very lethargic.

During this time, the dog will not be interested in eating or drinking, will likely vomit, and may lose the ability to stand.

Eventually, there will be widespread organ failure.

What Are the Symptoms of a Dog Dying From Kidney Failure?

Sometimes kidney failure can appear very rapidly or over some time.

The following are some of the most common symptoms reported.

  • Depression: There will be a lack of interest in things the dog used to enjoy when they have entered kidney failure. For example, they may no longer play or get excited about walks.
  • Anemia: Anemia is a condition in which you lack red blood cells. This can cause dogs (and humans too!) to feel weak and lethargic.
  • Difficulty breathing: When waste builds up in the dog’s body, they can begin to have difficulty breathing. This distress is commonly seen in the late stages of kidney failure.
  • Loss of Appetite: Dogs will eventually begin to turn their nose away at food. Loss of appetite is often accompanied by vomiting and diarrhea.
  • Increased Urination: Kidneys that are not properly function will dump water as they fail to remove the toxins from the body. This will cause increased urination and sometimes incontinence.
  • Increased Thirst: Due to the increased urination, the dog’s body will dehydrate and require more water. Therefore, dogs will try to drink tons of water when available until they are in late kidney failure.
  • Weight Loss: Due to lack of appetite and sometimes vomiting or diarrhea, dogs will drastically begin to lose weight. Unfortunately, this also adds to their lethargy.
  • Vomiting: When the kidneys fail, it causes a build-up of toxins within the body, which often results in nausea and vomiting.

When To Euthanize a Dog With Kidney Disease

Once a dog has lost the quality of its life due to kidney failure, when to euthanize is a serious decision to consider.

You can discuss a few aspects of their life with your veterinarian to see if this is the best option for your dog.

When the Vet Has Exhausted All Options

Since kidney disease will progress to eventual kidney failure, treatments can assist in keeping the dog comfortable but will not cure the kidneys.

Vets will try various medications and treatments until there is nothing left that can help.

Your Dog Is Near Kidney Failure

Late kidney disease will lead to kidney failure and eventually death.

When symptoms and blood tests reveal that the kidneys have started going into failure, the only options left are to keep the pet comfortable until it is time.

Unfortunately, some owners choose to euthanize to avoid unnecessary suffering.

Your Dog Is Struggling With Basic Tasks

Lethargy, weakness, and muscle wasting are all signs of your dog declining.

Sometimes these are the best indicators that the dog is entering acute renal failure.

Your Dog No Longer Has a Good Quality of Life

If your dog is overall miserable despite treatment, then it is usually a good sign to let them go.

Often they will appear to merely be existing rather than living.

Should You Keep Trying?

When dealing with kidney disease, it is best to try as long as your dog does.

If they are attempting to enjoy life, eat, and drink, then keeping up with appointments with your veterinarian and staying on track with their treatments means giving them more time they wouldn’t otherwise have.

How To Cope With Anticipatory Grief

Knowing you are losing your pet is hard, and many pet loss support groups are happy and willing to assist you through the decision-making and the grief that follows.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some commonly asked questions regarding canine kidney failure.

Is Kidney Failure Painful for Dogs?

Once toxins begin to back up into the dog’s body they can be faced with severe discomfort and distress.

Is Kidney Disease a Death Sentence for Dogs?

Kidney disease can be treated but not cured. So while the prognosis will determine how much the disease has progressed, your dog can still have a happy life.

Wrapping Up

Ultimately, dealing with dog kidney failure and when to euthanize is a heavy burden to bear.

Before making the call to the vet, it’s crucial to review the specific factors that are affecting your dog.

Find peace knowing there are ways to keep your dog happy until it is time to relieve them of any suffering.

If you have any questions about kidney failure in dogs or when to decide to euthanize, leave a comment.

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